Dream Jobs: Director of Product Testing

Bruce Jahnke, Director of Product Testing at K2, explains how he got the dream job of destroying ski gear, every day.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

When you’re standing at the top of a steep, rowdy line, chances are, you’re not thinking about if your skis can handle what you’ll throw their way. Bruce Jahnke, Director of Product Testing at K2, has already done that for you.

Building. Breaking. Testing. from K2

I have a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wyoming. Prior to joining K2, I worked at Boeing as an engineer in their commercial airplane division.

We test our skis, boots, poles, helmets, and snowshoes in the Cold Temperature Environmental Test Chamber. It’s basically a big refrigerator set to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, where we perform stress tests and cyclic tests on these products. 

The engineers who are part of K2’s Product Test department wear insulated coveralls, mittens and boots—the same insulated clothes you see the mushers wear on the Iditarod. We have developed a system so engineers can get in and do their job quickly and get out; usually no more than 10-15 minutes. But the current record is three hours without a break.

Bruce Jahnke breaking a ski.

Bruce Jahnke breaking a ski.

The point of the lab is to test products in as close to real-world conditions as possible. Stress testing involves generating forces and torques that match the loads a skier would apply while sliding down the hill. Some tests are dynamic, where we subject the product to impact at high rates of speed. Other tests are cyclic tests, which put the product through hundreds of thousands of repeated movements. These types of tests let us evaluate how our products will perform over many years— and we can accomplish it in just a few days.

Not into breaking stuff? Check out what it's like to be a ski graphic designer.

Stress testing, or testing to failure, is just one of the tests we use. Characterizations tests evaluate stiffness and torsional rigidity, and we also measure how UV radiation will affect the look and performance of our products.

We don’t just test the finished product—we also test the materials that make up the skis: the wood core, steel edge, and polyethylene base. 

If you want to get into product testing, I recommend obtaining an engineering degree. Then, get some practical experience working in a laboratory. Combining your technical degree with good hands-on skills, plus a passion for the sport, should prepare you for a position as a product test engineer.

Don't want to work in a freezer? Check out more Ski Industry Dream Jobs.

Originally published as a Skiing Magazine digital original in October, 2010. It has since been updated with the video, hyperlinks, and minor edits for clarity.

Related

Ski School Director at Smuggler's Notch

Ski Industry Dream Jobs: Ski School Director

Being in charge of ski school is like being a principal… who gets to ski instead of wear a tie.

Crested Butte Patrol and Dog

Ski Industry Dream Job: Ski Patrol Director

As Crested Butte’s ski patrol director, Bill Dowell gets first chair, makes sure people have an amazing ski day, and deals with all types of ski injuries.

Dan Green

Ski Industry Dream Job: Product Designer at Arc’teryx

Dan Green is one of many designers behind the Alpha line of gloves by Arc’teryx. Check out how the Dan and the team revolutionized a sleeping market.

OC thumb

Dream Job: Global Brand Director at Armada

Wondering how to become a brand director at a ski company? If you’re Chris O’Connell, it was simple: start your own.

Hutmaster thumb

Ski Industry Dream Jobs: Hutmaster

Backcountry huts are a great way to escape the crowds. But who maintains these cozy cabins? We talked with Summit Huts hutmaster Willie Trowbridge about carpentry, microbes, and the weirdest place he's seen guests sleep.

Lead Guide Zahan Billimoria.Click here to read the story.

Ski Industry Dream Job: Backcountry Guide

Exum Mountain Guide Zahan Billimoria landed his dream job. Find out how.

Dream Jobs: Sales Director at Atomic, Salomon

Ski Industry Dream Job: Sales Director at Atomic and Salomon

Ski all over the world and sell ski gear. Sounds fun. But Erik Anderson has worked hard since high school to get there.

LAST 99 mm FLEX  No. 10 tongue MSRP $800 There’s no hike mode on this boot, but it has sure traction for hiking, is light, with a nice flex feel, and it’s Seth’s boot, so of course it competes with boots in the Adventure category. Get more info on this boot here.   

Ski Industry Dream Job: Ski and Boot Graphic Designer

Nathan Canupp spent 12 years managing Line Skis top sheets. Here’s what it’s like designing some of the most daring graphics in the industry.